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Culture Shock in Avon

Education -- Should the playing field be level?

Letter from Jim Strang



BEREA - On his first night as a policeman more than 18 years ago, Detective Robert Surgenor responded to a call about a 15-year-old who had broken his mother s nose and knocked his disabled father to the floor.

After listening to the woman recount the horrors of living with the boy - his parents were so afraid of him, they deadbolted their bedroom door - Surgenor said he couldn't help but ask the obvious: "Did you ever spank him?"

The answer was no. And according to Surgenor, the answer would be the same in virtually all the cases he has seen since then as Berea s juvenile crime investigator.

That s why Surgenor wrote his book on child discipline, "NO FEAR: A POLICE OFFICER'S PERSPECTIVE." Its message - that to properly raise a child, you must sometimes inflict pain without injury - was so controversial that he could not find a publisher for the book, he said.

He published it himself through Providence House Publishers of Franklin, Tenn., which specializes in regional, historical, inspirational and theological titles. Now, he is betting a second mortgage that he can sell 5,000 copies and break even.

Over the course of his career, Surgenor, 49, had put together an inch-thick collection of information about child discipline and juvenile delinquency. Each time he handed it to a distraught parent, he hoped his advice would help.

He says children today do not respect their parents because they do not fear their parents. Timeouts are fine, he says. Grounding is fine. But when those fail, there is nothing like hearing the leather coming out of dad s belt loops. Or the wooden spoon coming out of the drawer.

Surgenor contends that it is mostly children who are not hit who commit crimes.

"Juvenile crime is exploding," he says, citing FBI statistics that show domestic violence offenses committed by children increased 348 percent between 1983 and 1997, compared with an increase of 137 percent for crimes committed by adults. Murders committed by children increased 158 percent between 1984 and 1994, compared with a 5 percent increase in murders committed by adults, according to his book ...

Surgenor bases his opinions on a career of seeing kids who were not spanked go on to break the law. He also cites the Bible, which played an important role in his childhood. His father was a preacher.

"The Bible reinforces what I say," Surgenor says. He quotes numerous passages, but his favorite is "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."

"Society, unfortunately, has geared parents to think they can t touch their children," Surgenor says.

He points to sections of Ohio law that say they can and adds, "The laws in most states allow a parent to use corporal punishment. Most parents just don t realize it."

The book includes a list of laws from every state that explain the difference between child discipline and child abuse ...


Phone: (216) 999-4815

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Carolyn Goss ( wrote:

Thank you for your interest in NO FEAR by Robert Surgenor.

Please feel free to order it directly from us via this email box.

Or you can call in the credit card number to our order department, 1-800-321-5692. You can also pay by check --we will hold the order until we get the check.

The book's list price is $17.95, and we offer a 20 % discount off that price for direct orders. Shipping is $3.50 for one book. The total would be $17.86 including shipping, plus tax if you live in Tennessee.

If you decide to go ahead and order by email, please send me your shipping address. I'll be happy to fulfil the order for you.

Sincerely, Carolyn Goss

Sales & Marketing Coordinator

Providence House Publishers

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 9-4-02, By ANDREA MIGHT, Morning Journal Writer

``Mom not happy with response to complaint

AVON -- A single black mother who said she moved her two children from East Cleveland to Avon in May because she wanted better things for them and thought the school system would be just the answer, now says she was wrong.

The mother says her 8-year-old son was allegedly assaulted by his third-grade teacher at Avon East Elementary School on Aug. 29 and nothing has been done.

She said after being called by the school to come get her son she took the boy to St. John West Shore Hospital and emergency room doctors advised her to keep her son home from school.

Hospital security called Avon police, saying they had a child ''that supposedly was assaulted by a teacher while at Avon East school,'' according to a police report.

Police later recommended no charges be placed ...

Avon City Prosecutor Anthony Manning said he reviewed the case and no criminal charges will be filed ...

The alleged assault took place after the child, who the mother said has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and didn't take his medication that morning, was disruptive in class.

His mother said he got out of his chair to pick up a pencil he dropped and the teacher wrapped her hand around the child's neck and put him back in his chair, causing a scratch on his face.

[The teacher] told police the boy would not sit down, according to the report.

She told police she twice grabbed the boy by the shoulders, once to get him back to his seat and once to make him sit down, according to the report.

When he would not look at her while she was talking to him, [the teacher] told police, she placed her hand under the child's chin with her thumb on one side of his face and her other four fingers on the other side of his face, but he pulled away, according to the report.

[The teacher] told police the child had been ''an ongoing disruption to her class since school started,'' according to the report. ''She stated that he speaks out in class, makes gestures and faces towards other classmates during class, and is constantly interrupting class.''

The incident could have been racially motivated, according to the boy's mother, because there are few black students in the school system. She said she hopes it was not.

''I don't want to think it was racially motivated,'' she said. ''He's the victim.''

Although she made a statement to police, the mother said, she was not happy with the results they gave her.

A memo titled ''Departmental Correspondence'' faxed to the boy's mother from the police said, ''Sounds like teacher was just trying to control the student and stop the disruption of the class.'' ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 9-5-02, By Brad Dicken

``Avon school incident angers parent

AVON -- Police say an alleged assault on an Avon East Elementary third-grader by his teacher doesn't warrant any charges, but the boy's mother says she wants the school district to discipline the teacher.

"All I want is justice," said Sheila Foster, of Rosewood Boulevard in Avon. "My son's a human being."

The mother said she doesn't want to think that the alleged attack against her son, the only black child in the class, is racially motivated. But she worries that it might have been. She said much was being done to protect the teacher, who is white.

"It is being quietly swept under the rug," she said.

The teacher told police the 8-year-old had been disruptive -- getting out of his chair, speaking out of turn and interrupting class -- since school started.

The teacher gave the following version of events to police:

The student was slouching, bothering other students and getting out of his seat on Aug. 29. When the teacher told him to sit down he became argumentative and refused.

She said she grabbed him and put him in his chair and he then slid down onto the floor. The teacher picked him up and put him back in his chair. When she tried to talk to him, he refused to look at her. She then turned his chin toward her and he pulled away.

When he calmed down, the teacher resumed class and waited about half an hour before trying to talk with the student about his behavior. He began to argue with her and the teacher called for the school principal, who called his mother to come to school to get her son.

The student told police he dropped his pencil and got out of his chair to pick it up and then asked the teacher if he could go to the bathroom. He said she then told him to shut up and began to choke him before throwing him to the ground.

He also denied being disruptive in class.

The mother took the student St. John West Shore Hospital in Westlake, where a security guard called Avon police to report the incident.

Avon police Lt. Paul Romond said prosecutors reviewed the case and decided that charges weren't warranted. The mother said she will probably pursue civil charges against the teacher ...

The mother said she simply wants the teacher to be punished so she won't do something like this in the future.

"I'd be satisfied if she got a five-day suspension without pay," she said.''

Contact Brad Dicken at

[It would be a tragedy if, after spending a billion dollars on new schools, the achievement of Cleveland students does not improve: "Educational reform" will remain the cruelest oxymoron because the powers-that-be refuse to return control of the classroom to the teacher. Let us work together to spare Avon from such a disaster.]

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 9-6-02, By Dave Perozek

``Avon principal says force sometimes appropriate

AVON -- Using physical force to control a student in the classroom is acceptable when the student poses a threat to himself or others or is "flagrantly disrupting the learning rights of others," Avon East Elementary Principal Vicki Fisher said ...

Robin Wallace, a licensed social worker with Plum Creek Associates in Oberlin, couldn't say whether the teacher did the right thing since she wasn't there.

But, she said, "Any time you put your hand on someone who is agitated, you put yourself in a risky, vulnerable position. [Ohio law needs to be changed to protect teachers who have the guts to maintain order]

I have seen a lot of situations where there was a way around getting physically involved. All schools should have a plan for dealing with something like this." [Just like the plan in Cleveland or East Cleveland? The first time some of these students learn the meaning of the word "consequences" is after being sentenced to thirty-five years in Lucasville at taxpayer expense for cold-bloodedly murdering soneone for his jacket.] ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 9-14-02, By ANDREA MIGHT, Morning Journal Writer

``AVON -- ... The single black mother said she moved her two children from Cleveland to Avon in May because she wanted better things for them and thought the school system would be just the answer. Now she says she was wrong and is seeking legal advice.

Although she has not yet done so, she said she has also considered calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union because she said her child's rights were not protected by the school ...

''I don't want to pull the race card out. Racism is everywhere; it's right here in Avon,'' she said. ''Where's the equality in Avon? Who's going to pay for the emergency bill?'' ...''

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of The Plain Dealer, 9-22-02, By Heather Thayer and Jainen Thayer

``On Sept. 14, my family and I decided to take part in the Free Spirit Weekend by going downtown and shopping at Tower City. I cannot begin to express my disappointment and anger over the incident that took place there a mere 10 minutes after we arrived.

While we were shopping at Gymboree, which is just above the dancing fountain, there was a commotion near the food court. Suddenly, what sounded like gunshots rang out, and people began to run. The women who worked in Gymboree were very orderly as they whisked us into the storage room and locked the store down. However, you will never be able to understand how incredibly scared we were as we stood back there, holding our 18-month-old twins. We were very glad when the incident ended, and we immediately left downtown Cleveland ...

It will be a long time before we visit downtown Cleveland again. We used to enjoy coming to the city, but unfortunately we no longer feel safe ...''

From Heather Thayer and Jainen Thayer, Avon

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of The Plain Dealer, 9-22-02, By Laura Kuhl

``My family and I decided to go downtown early in the day to enjoy the city before the Indians game. What we experienced was a nightmare.

Tower City was packed with unsupervised minors who were described by security as "roving gangs in colors." Several fights broke out, which culminated in a shout of "shooter, shooter."

My family, which includes young children, was near the plaza doors when it happened and we were nearly trampled by the hundreds of kids who were running for the doors, some laughing, some screaming. This is not a rumor. I was there. I heard the shout. I also heard three distinct noises that could have passed for gunfire. I was later told it was clapping.

The push for the doors lasted for several minutes, and a security guard estimated that there were nearly 1,000 kids in the mob. Those kids moved to the fountains, where more fights broke out ...

I have never before been afraid of visiting or shopping downtown. But I was that weekend. Never again. No Tower City trip for me this Christmas ...''

From Laura Kuhl, Medina

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COLUMN from The Chronicle Telegram, 12-2-02, By Harvey Gittler

``The duel between public and private schools

Recently, a newspaper report mentioned a failing school in Lorain. There is also one school in Elyria with that label ...

Private schools, we are told, offer a better education than do public schools. If this is true, an obvious question arises: How can we make public schools equal to private schools?

I spoke to several educators in Lorain County and asked that simple question. Or put another way, what advantages do private schools have over public schools?

If, overnight, we could impose on public schools the same rules and policies that private schools operate under, public schools would be equal to the best of private schools. So what changes would we have to make? Let's look at just six possible changes.

FIRST, private schools do not admit every child that comes to the door. Private schools can be selective in whom they admit. So let's have the public schools test each applicant. If the applicant doesn't meet the schools standards, the child will not be accepted for a public education. If private schools can be selective, why shouldn't public schools also be selective?

SECOND, if a student is a disciplinary problem in a private school, he or she goes out. There is no due process or hearings. Why not give public schools that same right? Where the students would go is the students and parents problem, not the public schools problem.

THIRD, does a student require an individual education program? Has the child been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or with learning disabilities? Most private schools will not accept such students. So why should public schools be required to admit them?

FOURTH, many private schools require parents to play an active role in the functioning of the school. Parent involvement isn't a choice; it is absolutely required. To level the playing field, no student should be admitted to a public school without a guarantee that the student's parents will be involved in various school programs. And if parents can't or won t be involved, then the student doesn't go to a public school. What happens to the student is someone else's problem.

FIFTH, private schools are not fully monitored by the state. Teachers do not have to be certified, and students do not have to take proficiency tests. If that's good enough for private schools, why shouldn't it be good enough for public schools?

SIXTH, if a private school needs an increase in income, the school just raises tuition costs. Of course, the school may appeal to parents and to graduates for donations, but if that fails, the tuition is raised.

When a public school system needs more money, the board of education goes to the public and asks for a tax increase. One only has to watch election-night returns to realize how difficult it is to get voters to support public education.

In essence, public schools will be as good as private schools when the playing field is leveled ...''

Harvey Gittler can be contacted at

[ From the above, it is obvious that parents do not want disruptive students in the same classroms as their children.

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This law forces public schools to include disruptive students in regular classes; and it could be viewed as a diabolically clever means of encouraging parents to abandon public education.]

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4-27-07

``Plain Dealer bias

Five Plain Dealer staffers packed 18 sandbag paragraphs under a headline extremely misleading in its passive voice: "A boy dies, and a gun debate is reignited." Who "reignited" what debate? Since when is lawful self-defense debatable?

One anti-defense-rights mouthpiece said she'd never heard of such a thing, positing it must be "one of the few" where a gun stopped a crime. One of the few? How about a few million? Studies indicate that people use firearms more than 2 million times a year for protection. Often, no shots are fired. Sometimes, criminals are wounded. Occasionally, they die. That's the regrettable consequence of an action the criminal initiated.

Why don't we read about these usages? Because some editors do not consider them "news." Other editors do. For decades, the National Rifle Association has compiled monthly these thousands of articles in its "Armed Citizen" column. An enterprising reporter might use them to present a balanced account of firearms self-defense use.

For the past week or so, "Non Sequitur," a comic strip that appears in this very newspaper, has skewered this "some say" approach to slanting the news. Perhaps your editors ought to look to their own funny pages to see how transparent their tilt truly is.''

Jim Strang, Avon


LETTER TO THE EDITOR of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4-27-07

``Not the first time

The Plain Dealer reported that this is "the first time a concealed-carry permit holder has shot and killed an attacker" (Tuesday 4-24-07). That is incorrect. This is at least the third time in Cleveland since the [concealed weapon carry] law took effect three years ago.

Bill Singleton was ambushed by criminals and managed to return fire, killing one of his ambushers before succumbing to his wounds.

Last year, a store owner returned fire against a robber who had just shot the owner's son in the head. The son survived; the robber didn't.''

Rick Troha, North Olmsted


COLUMN from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4-25-07, by Regina Brett, Plain Dealer Columnist

``No sympathy for thug culture

There's a sheet of tributes taped to a red brick wall. There's a utility pole covered in glittery balloons. There's a pile of teddy bears resting not far from where 15-year-old Arthur Buford died on the sidewalk.

But there's no debate over concealed-carry laws. A debate would be as unnecessary as the tributes posted to honor a teen who went looking for trouble and found it.

Damon Wells, 25, was sitting on his own porch Saturday night. It's a long, narrow gray porch with a wicker chair at the end. The house sits near Kinsman Road and East 134th Street in Cleveland. He was minding his own when two teens tried to rob him. The plan backfired. When Wells saw one kid pull a gun, he drew his own Smith & Wesson and blasted away.

It's sad that a delinquent died on the sidewalk. It would have been sadder if a law-abiding homeowner had died on his porch. Wells had no criminal record. Buford, a freshman at John F. Kennedy High School, was still on probation. Last year he committed an aggravated robbery.

Three years ago, Ohio made it legal to carry a concealed weapon. Wells had a permit to carry the gun. Back when Second Amendment advocates argued for that right, they warned people: Don't carry a gun unless you plan to use it if your life is threatened.

The Smith & Wesson could be credited for saving Wells' life, but it didn't protect his home. After the shooting, someone smashed in his front windows. The house looks deserted now, with sheets of plywood nailed over the windows and front door.

Ever since the shooting, people have stopped at the nearby memorial to scrawl messages honoring Buford. "God gave me a new angel man . . . Why Da Good Die Young . . . I'll see you in eternity . . . You are with the Lord and we happy for that."

One woman walked by with her toddler. She set a teddy bear in the pile of stuffed animals and scrawled a message on the sign. Her little boy pointed and squealed at the balloons dancing in the wind until she pulled him away. Others drove by and stopped to tie more heart-shaped balloons to the pole. Buford's cousin had grumbled to one reporter about the shooter being allowed to run free.

Wells killed the teen Saturday. City prosecutors cleared Wells on Monday, calling the shooting justified ... I can't bring myself to call Buford the victim of a shooting. He was the instigator of one. His family should be ashamed of his actions and apologize to the man he tried to rob.

Two weeks ago, a report came out that examined Cleveland's 389 homicides from 1998 to 2002. The conclusion? "Homicides in Cleveland are overwhelmingly intra-racial in nature, with black offenders killing black victims." The majority of victims were black males; the majority of killers were black males.

If there is any debate here, it shouldn't be about gun control. It should be about thug control.''

To reach Regina Brett:

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